Personality of The Year

Celebrities are a blight upon this world. There – I’ve spilt the beans, let the cat out of the bag, blown the gaff. I’ve said what others shouldn’t but still somehow do, like a mega-rich pastor preaching humility to a hall of poor folk. What everyone was thinking has now been uttered, never to return to the cosy confines of private conversation. As with any great revelation, it came about when confronted with a great evil. There are many evils in this world, and some are easy to spot, such as traffic wardens. Others require a little more time staring into the belly of the beast: yes, I was scrolling through social media when I encountered this evil, and yes, it had to do with celebrities.

The facts are these: a moderately popular Zambian television station runs a competition that gives prizes to ‘personalities’ across the country in areas as essential as: ‘Most Influential Social Media Personality’, ‘Most Fashionable Male & Female Personality’ and, in case one forgets Zambia is a ‘Christian nation’, ‘Best Gospel Personality’. Of course, this list is not exhaustive (it leads to such absurd heights that there’s even a prize for ‘Best Customer Care’) but is representative of its core ethos: that there are some people who should be celebrated for their… personality? Which, I imagine, means that others should be applauded for different things. Only that when your airwaves are filled with twerking gospel singers, it’s challenging to focus on celebrating anything at all.

The whole gig strikes me as silly. I am well aware that I may be the only one willing to voice opposition to the cult of the personality. This had me begging: what constitutes a ‘personality’? The use of the word is as diverse as the number of malls in Zambia. For psychologists, everyone has a personality – a set of unchanging personal characteristics. Others use personality more colloquially to refer to someone with a charming, even slightly dangerous character. But can we extend either of these two definitions to celebrities? Do they actually have something akin to personal characteristics? Or are they merely placeholders for the latest TikTok trend?

In the absence of any evidence that suggests celebrities have personal characteristics, I was led to the logical conclusion that they must be soulless beings. I know it takes one vampire to spot another, and so on, but this confirmed several suspicions I’ve been harbouring for many years. For example, no one has ever convincingly explained to me why there are so many ‘executive’ things in Zambia or where they suddenly appeared from. But then I understood that this was not aimed at me but towards celebrities: only soulless beings would visit executive conference centres in their executive cars, dressed in executive suits, bought at executive boutiques, with seemingly executive women on their arms, right?

Or so I thought. Only to find out that outside the bubbles celebrities inhabit – and drink – there were executives and personalities all around. Indeed, since my grand revelation, I’ve met a waiter who is a part-time TikTok personality (I tipped her appropriately), an executive barber who operates from a five-square-meter shop (he butchered my hair inappropriately), and a used car salesman who kept on changing the price of his executive 1998 Toyota Corolla (that was last roadworthy in 1999). Which slowly led to a fair bit of introspection – perhaps I’m the fool in this story, the soulless being in society’s fantasy. What if these folks have it figured out while I am the barbarian who considers them amoral? Or maybe I’m just bitter. In fact, of course, I’m bitter – who doesn’t want all these executive things? Who wouldn’t want to be Personality of The Year?

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Sebastian can usually be found eating strawberries and cream at your nearest tennis club.

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